An Open Letter To Anyone Who Grew Up Thinking Failure Wasn't An Option

by Ashley McGrath

To my fellow female Millennials:

Most of us can agree that throughout our childhoods, we were taught one absolute truth: Hard work is the only way to get what we want.

Our parents, teachers and coaches drilled into our minds that the only way we will get where we need is by fighting hard to get there. We were taught to never be quitters because quitters will never win.

Giving up is a sign of weakness, and it’s never an option.

If you want to win, you have to work for it, no matter what it takes.

I remember reading these “inspirational” words on my mirror at 4 am on Monday mornings while I got ready to jump into a freezing cold pool and train for two hours before class.

"Excellence is a matter of choice."

I repeated them while my lungs burned and muscles ached as I tried to finish an impossible set, throughout the time in which my coach was convinced I wasn’t "trying hard enough" or "giving it my all."

"Giving up is admitting that you’re weak."

I memorized them when my high school lacrosse team spent countless hours practicing day after day to perfect our skills, only to lose every single game in our conference.

"Accepting defeat is accepting failure."

We worked our butts off in school because we needed to get the best job, make the most money and have the best future. The pressure to fight for what we want is all we know. There simply is no other option besides giving 110 percent in order to be the best.

Anything less is just laziness.

As women in our early 20s, the pressure is intense.

We enter into life after college with only one real life lesson ingrained in our brains: Nothing good comes without hard work.

It's all we know, and with this, we shape ourselves by making decisions that will only help us "achieve greatness" – whatever the hell that means.

Little do we know, this "thing" we thought to be true can really only be applied to very small parts of our lives.

No one tells us this during our adolescence of course, because it would dilute the message. Therefore, we run into the real world ready to battle with empty minds and open hearts. Our judgement is clouded by the delusion that everything will work out if we base our decisions on this principle alone.

Therefore, our misconception of reality results in constant disappointment.

We make decisions based on a principle that has always proven to be true. Choices that, when they result in betrayal or failure, genuinely make us feel like the world is ending.

Thankfully, though, we are young and life moves quickly.

We’re so absorbed in taking in the new world around us that it never takes long to realize we don’t even remember why we were sad in the first place.

We change our minds hourly about where we want to go, who we want to see, what we want to do and how we want to do it, making it more confusing every day to decide what to fight for.

We are finally able to relish in both the anxious excitement and gripping fear of living on our own. We don’t know the first thing about anything, but we’re stubborn, and we'll keep living every day thinking we have all the answers.

Our 20s are some of the most terrifying, confusing and exhilarating years of our lives.

We learn new things about ourselves every single day, and we take these lessons with us as we continue to shape into the people we were born to be.

We feel genuine delight and excitement when we create new relationships. We feel soothing comfort and security when we find people we can love and trust, and we will feel excruciating pain and hurt when we are mistreated or betrayed.

We are fragile and vulnerable.

We misinterpret moments and people, and we are narrow-minded.

We are told we are defined by those we surround ourselves with, but our desperation to feel known and understood can make it impossible at times to see the true purpose each person we meet is meant to serve on our journeys.

We are distracted because we crave acceptance, for without it, we feel alone and even more lost than we already are.

However, despite all the confusion self-doubt that comes with being women in our 20s, I have faith in us.

I believe there is a part of us that is strong enough to know whether something is temporary or whether it's meant to stick around for a while.

This is our gut talking to us, and it only gets stronger and louder as time passes and we continue to meet new people, see their flaws, learn from their strengths and interpret their intentions. I can admit my moments of weakness have been fueled by my rejection of this gut feeling.

I became trapped by the idea that there was more to be gained from an unhealthy relationship, and I refused to acknowledge that I was choosing to fight against fate.

For the only absolute truth reminded me I couldn't quit.

I wanted him and I had to fight for what I wanted, no matter what it took.

I had to keep fighting, keep working and keep holding on because despite my gut screaming at me to let him go, I was convinced that love is the only thing in the world that will always be worth the pain that comes with it.

Sadly, this is a lie, and our hearts trick us into believing these lies.

They tell us to keep holding on and battling against fate, all the while poisoning the relationship until it is nothing but a scrap of what it once was.

And after all the pain and suffering from losing the battle, we still question everything. We drive ourselves crazy as we question every step we took, every word we spoke, every decision made and every lie we believed that got us to this point.

We think “what if?”, and we go insane concocting different scenarios of, “If only I hadn’t said that, we’d still be together,” or, “If only he’d tried a little harder, we wouldn’t have fought as much.”

We create this perfect world in our minds, convincing ourselves we don’t belong in this messed up world because it's what's is keeping us from being with the one that we love.

We forget, for a moment, that this messed up world we live in actually is perfect.

I believe we discover perfection when we realize we can take these moments of weakness and shift them into moments of strength. To see them as lessons rather than mistakes or regrets; learn from them and remember not to believe the lies; avoid pain by accepting that fate is stronger than all the fight we have in us; teach us to see the danger before diving blindly into the fire.

I've spent so many years getting beaten down by fate. I fought with everything I had, and I felt heartache that drove me to absolute darkness before finally accepting we cannot spend our lives fighting for things that are never going to be worth fighting for.

Sometimes true victory comes when we give up.

Deep down we all know whether our jobs, our boyfriends, our friends or our cities of residence are just temporary. We can feel it in our hearts, but it destroys us to think that we'd be walking away from something that is falling apart without giving it everything we have to try and keep it together.

One thing I've learned since embarking on my journey into the real world is that some of the best things that will happen to us during our lifetimes will be simple.

Not everything we do is going to require a painful fight, and not everyone we meet is going to be worth keeping around. Sometimes people will enter into our lives simply to teach us we have the strength trust our own judgment and know when it's time to walk away.

These people are not our forever, but they play a significant role in teaching us an important lesson. Others are perfect in their own ways to remind us we are perfect in ours.

I had a man walk into my life recently to teach me this lesson.

I accepted him for who he was and the role he was playing for the short time we were together. He was smart, funny, handsome, charming and polite, but he was temporary.

This man served a purpose on my journey that I will forever be grateful for.

He taught me life doesn't have to be a constant battle, and we won't always have to stick with something or someone because we're too afraid to give up and let go.

My message for my fellow 20-something females is this: Stop fighting against fate and don't be afraid to walk away.

Greatness will come and you will know in your heart when it's the right time to fight for it.

Yours truly,